The Call of the Swamp by author Davide Cali and artist Marco Somà is one of the most down-to-earth-fantasy children’s books I’ve ever read. Let’s be honest; most children’s books are fantasy—intentionally or not—whether in characters and environment, story, or both. We often offer children encouraging illusions (delusions?) of grandeur and present everything with a happy ending tied up in a pretty bow of one’s choice color. While The Call of the Swamp is certainly fantasy—a kid with gills is picked up in a swamp and adopted by a couple that can’t have children—it leaves plenty of room for personal experience and inquiry. Not all lives are the same, and this simple story doesn’t try to force all adopted kids into one box. Cali tells a story of a child who looks different from his parents and who eventually recognizes his differences in a real way and longs to discover and experience his past. And while he eventually makes his way back to his adoptive parents, there is no clear answer for how one must feel or what one must do. Like I said, it leaves a lot of room for adopted kids and parents to talk and wrestle with their context. Wonderful.
Somà’s artwork is brilliant and will spark the imagination of older children who will recognize things not to be as they really are but represent something much bigger. Again, we have here further fodder for conversation.
I certainly recommend this one.